Understanding Architecture Internships

An architecture internship is the formal training needed to become certified in the profession of Architecture, and is essential for gaining well-rounded experiences, in the developmental and completed phases of design and construction projects.

In this article, we will cover the basics of an internship, how to find one, duties and fees of an intern, and what you can expect to learn. But firstly lets understand exactly what an architecture internship is…

What is an architecture internship?

Architectural associations around the world, put internships in place as a means of easing the transition from formal education, to architectural licensing and practice. Internships ensure that enough practical standard knowledge is gained in the field, and the health and safety of the public is guaranteed.

Internships are similar to the apprenticeship practice of the old days, albeit modernized. Apprenticeship did not require formal education, but candidates were typically enlisted to a mentor who took them under their wings and trained them for many years. However, architectural internships require graduation from an accredited architecture school, or at least an enrolment in one.

What does an intern architect do?

Aside from technical skills, internships are an opportunity to learn and work on your soft skills such as teamwork, independence, effective communication, and negotiation skills that will come in handy with future projects and clients.

Duties of interns depend on the size of firm and their allocation of job duties. Typically, architecture interns should be prepared to do some or all of the following during the course of their internship:

Internships afford you the opportunity to:

Develop your technical skills – Though you learn a lot of technical skills in school, there is still so much to be learnt while working. Experience they say, is the best teacher.  An aspiring architect should also learn to be a good data analyst, as you will be working with numbers, spreadsheets and formulas.

A good architect should learn about presentations, economy, market and technology. They are all vital parts of running a firm. They are skills that will be of great value to interns who wish to get full time employment.

Work on relational skills – Communication is important. Though knowledge of technical skills might get you the job, you interpersonal skills determine if you will keep it. The way you relate with others, communicate your ideas and resolve conflict are important skills to develop.

Your firm should be confident in your ability to represent them in the best possible light in every situation. Ensure you study and learn from architects you encounter along your journey.

Learn networking – Networking is a chance for you to build relationships with people that will help you get where you want to be in life. The earlier you take networking seriously, the better for you it will be.

An architectural internship offers an opportunity to meet with some of the best and most experienced professionals in the field. You should expand your network to other interns like yourself, as they may be of great help in the future.

How much does an architecture intern make?

In the United States, the average salary that an intern architect makes per year is $52,732. These estimates are centered on data received from 116 submissions.

In Canada, the average salary that an intern architect makes per year is C$52,017.

The salary earned is based on the number of years of experience and technical skills acquired over the years.

How much does an architecture intern make.jpg

How to get an architecture internship

Getting your first internship can be very stressful. Companies typically might not want to hire someone without any job experience, but, you need to get hired to gain experience.

How then do you go about this?

Write down all you have to offer – To do this, you need to know yourself. Think about everything you have ever accomplished, and all what you have up your sleeves. It is a great way to sell yourself to a potential employer.

It can also be referred to as a ‘brag sheet’. It should contain all that is worth mentioning about yourself and your abilities.

Include every single school or professional project you have worked on. Every qualification you have, degrees and certifications, professional affiliations, drawings, volunteer work experience, competitions and every other architecture-related thing you can think of.

This list can be updated as you go along. It is a helpful resource of your most relevant skills and can help you build your resume.

Put your network to good use – 88 percent of employers see referrals as a leading source of superior candidates. They also believe that referred candidates are a better culture fit than those gotten from other sources.

Most hires come from word of mouth, which is why it is a good idea to start your search from your immediate network. Your network can reach out to their network as well, thereby increasing your chances of getting what you want. For students, you can start with your college or university professors, so do your best to remain in their good graces.

A LinkedIn profile can be helpful as well. It is a good way to connect with other professionals in the field. There are architecture groups on the platform that can keep you updated with latest trends in architecture.

Do your research – Conduct adequate research into firms that are offering internship positions. You do not want to do all of this work just to get a position at an organization you do not fit into.

Focus your research on the important facts about the company such as location, number of years in business, company size, project niche, ownership and management style and employee structure.

Keep track of all the information you have to ensure organization, as it is very easy to get confused. An Excel spreadsheet might come in handy for the process.

Be determined and detailed – The search for an internship position can be unpredictable. It is important to note that a lot of candidates are probably applying to the same position. Therefore, you should do everything you can to make your application stand out.

Ensure that your internship applications are deliberate and specifically targeted to individual organizations. If you put in the time and effort, you should get at least a couple of positive calls or emails. Always follow-up applications and keep track of organizations you have contacted. Put in a convincing application and make good use of your ‘brag-sheet’.

Types of architecture internships

There are various types of internships in the field, and the one you choose depends on your strengths and area of interest. They include:

  • Model making internship
  • Property development internship
  • Building Design internship
  • 3D visualization and interior rendering internship
  • Transportation internship
  • Urban planning internship

How to find an architecture internship

  1. Foster relationships with your current professors and find out if they are involved in architecture practices outside of the education world.
  2. Connect with graduate students of your school, get to know where they interned and their experiences there.
  3. Network with people outside of school. You never know someone who knows someone that needs an intern.
  4. Find a mentor in your field and do not be afraid to try out different mentors.
  5. When applying, narrow your choices based on your personal interests. This helps you to clearly communicate what you want to your network.
  6. Start your search early and give yourself adequate time to find the perfect fit.
  7. Be thankful and polite to everyone that helps you. Be open minded and sincere in your approach and do not lose hope.

Preparing for a successful architecture internship

Be open to options when searching for a job

Yes, it is a good thing to narrow down your search to firms you are most interested in. But, we would advise that you have backup options as well. Apply to as many firms as you can, and give smaller organizations a chance as well.

Also, location plays a big role in the companies you apply to. The closer they are, the less money you have to spend on transporting yourself there. However, there are cases where firms are willing to offer financial support to cover your living and transportation costs. It never hurts to ask!

Undertake every task assigned with zeal

When you start out as an intern, you might be given jobs that nobody has time for, or just are not interested in. Though it may seem to be a bit boring or tedious, handle every task with passion. In no time, you will move up the ladder and be given the more serious tasks to take on.

If you carry out these jobs efficiently, people start to notice your diligence and commitment. Be sure to voice your concerns if you are only given odd jobs to do, and nothing relating to the field of architecture.

Find ways to help

There might be times when you simply have nothing to do at the office and have not been assigned any task. Sometimes, people are just a little too busy. Find a way to be of help around the office and ask people if they need assistance with any project.

You could offer to do some research, renderings, Photoshop edits, library sorting and so much more. They are great ways to learn and to work really quickly and efficiently. The team will notice your zeal and you might be the go-to-person for a number of important tasks in the future.

Ask questions

A lot of interns tend to shy away from asking questions, because they do not want to come across as stupid. It could be a question about work or how to operate the printing machine. It does not matter! It is better to ask than to make mistakes that could have been avoided.

However, try not to ask the same questions over and over again, as this could get annoying. A good tip is to write down the answers in a notebook so you can always refer to it when you need to. Also, bookmark important websites and have software tutorials close by, for any problems you might encounter.

Learn from all departments

Your internship is an opportunity for you to really discover yourself. Some departments at the office might seem pretty boring or stressful. But, it is a chance for you to see how well you could thrive in them.  Every professional in the built environment contributes in one way or another, to the success of a project. You never know, something might pique your interest and you find yourself switching fields or simply gaining a new skill.

Your discussions with people in other departments will better help you understand the relationship between all building professionals.

Keep a record

It is important to document your experiences, as you would be learning quite a lot of things in a short amount of time. Keep a record of these in as many ways as you can. Take photographs of yourself, your work and things around the office or building sites.

You might need to show all of these in your portfolio and resume in the future. Photographs, videos and notes are also a reminder of things that you have learnt along the way.

Surviving an architecture internship

In order to survive an architecture internship and make the most out of your experience, follow these steps:

Be Proactive – Find ways to make your mark at the office. Be of help to those in need and let them see you as a valuable asset. If there is a skill you have that can be helpful to others, offer it to them and do a good job.

Be social – You want people to know you and remember you. Do not sit in a corner with your headphones plugged in. You want to interact with people and socialize with them. This increases your chances of being invited back the coming year, being offered a full time position or just getting amazing recommendations.

Remember to smile, be polite, friendly and approachable. However, socializing shouldn’t affect the delivery of work assigned to you.

Be flexible – Jobs in this field are based on deadlines. You might find yourself being yanked from every corner by professionals who need help with their work. Though it might get a little stressful, it shows that you are valuable to them.

Be sure to let people know what tasks you are currently handling, and when you will get to their so as to afford conflict. Manage your time properly and do not take on more than you can do.

Be well put together always – Nobody wants to work with an intern who is always late, untidy or disorganized. Make it a priority to be well put together and structured all the time. Be well dressed, remember to always take a shower, brush your teeth and comb your hair.

Also, keep your workstation tidy and clean up after yourself.

Embrace the process – Finally, be appreciative of where you are and embrace the journey. It might not be exactly what you hoped for in the beginning but no knowledge is wasted.

Sooner than later, you will handle the big projects, sit at important meetings and call the shots.

How to get architecture internships as a first year student

Getting an internship as a first year student might be difficult, as you have no experience and very little education. Here are a few tips that might help:

  • Apply to smaller sized offices, perhaps with a sole-architects who need casual help around the office. They are more likely to hire first year students.
  • Check out your university or college’s maintenance department for an opportunity to work as an intern. Most of them oversee minor renovations and repairs and would not mind any help they can get.
  • Ask one of your professors to look over your resume. With their experience, they can point out mistakes or help you make it better and more suited to the position. You never know, they might know someone that’s hiring.
  • Seek out a local practice in your hometown. Write an email or give a call and ask to pay them a visit. There might be an opportunity for you to do some job shadowing and maybe eventually an internship.
  • Join architecture associations. Build a network of people in the field and let them know your interest in an internship.

How to get an internship as a high school student

The tips for this are similar to those for first year students. However, here are other measures that can be taken by students towards building a career in architecture:

Summer programs – These are a great opportunity for high school students who are interested in the field of architecture to test the waters. Some of these programs offer college credit as well. Summer programs are a great way for students to get a feel of what the profession fully entails and to test the limit of their imaginations. Activities in the program typically revolve around design, construction, fabrication and problem solving.

Supervised site visits – This will help students come to an understanding of the importance of every detail in a building. Plans you have studied will come to life, as you view the physical structures. You have a basic understanding of what it is like to manoeuvre work sites and interact with contractors. This gives you an edge over your peers.

Research – You can find a lot of information relevant to the field on the internet. If this is a career you really want, you should know how long it takes to study architecture in school, prospects in the field and how much money you will earn. Also, it is a good idea to take classes relevant to architecture such as art, technical drawing, physics and math.

How to get architecture internship with no experience

Be Specific – When asked interview questions, give direct answers. Be entirely sure of what you want and why you want it. This way, you sound a lot more confident than those who give vague responses, and more likely to be offered the position.

Be prepared – Get some of the likely questions you will be asked from the internet. Practice your answers, record and listen to yourself speak and have a friend conduct mock interviews for you. This will help you be more confident on the day of the interview.

Get recommendations – Recommendations are a testament to your skills and capabilities. They go a long way especially in firms that are big on behavioural skills. Reach out to your network, let them know what you are looking for and a lot of them should be happy to help.

Strong resume and portfolio – These are the things that will get you an interview. It is essential that you put forward the best of your work. Research the company and get a clear idea of their brand. Tailor your resume to suit the job application and include a cover letter.

Be confident – Lastly, do not fret. It can be pretty intimidating when you believe you do not have much to offer. But, understand that a lot of companies are willing to hire you if they see potential. Be confident in your abilities and let it show. Outline your skills and believe in yourself.

To finish…

Choosing and getting an architecture internship is definitely not an easy task. But, the time and effort you put into the process will definitely pay off in the end. As you grow and learn, you realize that learning does not end in school.

An internship is a crucial step towards becoming a licensed professional and we hope this article has provided you with a better understanding of the process.


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